The Arts of Indigenous Health and Well-Being


Drawing attention to the ways in which creative practices are essential to the health, well-being, and healing of Indigenous peoples, The Arts of Indigenous Health and Well-Being addresses the effects of artistic endeavour on the “good life”, or mino-pimatisiwin in Cree, which can be described as the balanced interconnection of physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental well-being.

In this interdisciplinary collection, Indigenous knowledges inform an approach to health as a wider set of relations that are central to well-being, wherein artistic expression furthers cultural continuity and resilience, community connection, and kinship to push back against forces of fracture and disruption imposed by colonialism. The need for healing—not only individuals but health systems and practices—is clear, especially as the trauma of colonialism is continually revealed and perpetuated within health systems. The field of Indigenous health has recently begun to recognize the fundamental connection between creative expression and well-being. This book brings together scholarship by humanities scholars, social scientists, artists, and those holding experiential knowledge from across Turtle Island to add urgently needed perspectives to this conversation. Contributors embrace a diverse range of research methods, including community-engaged scholarship with Indigenous youth, artists, Elders, and language keepers.

The Arts of Indigenous Health and Well-Being demonstrates the healing possibilities of Indigenous works of art, literature, film, and music from a diversity of Indigenous peoples and arts traditions. This book will resonate with health practitioners, community members, and any who recognize the power of art as a window, an entryway to access a healthy and good life.


"There is a genuinely beautiful life-force at work in this text: it’s artful and creative, readable and forceful. The objectives and scholarship throughout The Arts of Indigenous Health and Well-Being are clear, grounded, rigorous and likely to make important contributions to knowledge and conversations about Indigenous health and the humanities in times and space of contemporary coloniality."

Sarah de Leeuw, Canada Research Chair, Humanities and Health Inequities Professor, Northern Medical Program, UNBC

"The unique content of The Art of Indigenous Health and Well-Being may be useful for communities to heal, and to preserve cultural and traditional knowledge that can be passed down in the written form. The content can spark dialogue and learning by being discussed and used by families, generations, health providers/healers and a wide array of learners."

Margot Latimer, Indigenous Health Chair, Faculty of Nursing, Dalhousie University

About the Authors

Nancy Van Styvendale is a white settler scholar, associate professor, and associate dean (research) in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta.

J.D. McDougall is a Métis PhD candidate in the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan, and lecturer in the Indigenous Literatures in English program at First Nations University of Canada.

Robert Henry is Métis from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan in the Department of Indigenous Studies, and co-director of the nātawihowin and mamawiikikayaahk Research Networks.

Robert Alexander Innes is a member of Cowessess First Nation and associate professor in the Indigenous Studies Program and the Department of Political Science at McMaster University. He is the author of Elder Brother and the Law of the People and and co-editor, with Kim Anderson, of Indigenous Men and Masculinities.

Other contributors: Adesola Akinleye, Jessica Bardill, Beverley Diamond, Nikki Dragone, Jo-Ann Episkenew, Linda M Goulet, Louise Halfe, Desiree Hellegers, Petra Kuppers, Warren Linds, Gail MacKay, Margaret Noodin, Karyn Recollet, Andrea Riley Mukavetz, Mamata Pandey, Nuno F. Ribeiro, Alena Rosen, Karen Schmidt

Table of Contents

Ch 1: What This Pouch Holds

Ch 2: Baskets, Birchbark Scrolls, and Maps of Land: Indigenous Making Practices as Oral Historiography

Ch 3: For Kaydence and her Cousins: Health and Happiness in Cultural Legacies and Contemporary Contexts

Ch 4: Stories and Staying Power: Art-Making as (Re)Source of Cultural Resilience and Well-Being for Panniqtumiut

Ch 5: Healthy Connections: Facilitators’ Perceptions of Programming Linking Arts and Wellness with Indigenous Youth

Ch 6: Narrating Relations: Genetic Ancestry Testing and Alternarratives of Queer Kinship

Ch 7: The Doubleness of Sound in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools

Ch 8 Kissed by Lightning: Mediating Haudenosaunee Traditional Teachings through Film

Ch 9: Minobimaadiziwinke (Creating a Good Life): Native Bodies Healing

Ch 10: Body Counts: War, Pesticides and Queer Spirituality in Cherríe Moraga’s Heroes and Saints

Ch 11: “The Song of the Starved Soul”

Ch 12 Sakihiwawin: Land’s Overflow into the space-tial “Otherwise”